With students gaining access to devices earlier and earlier, having a device free dinner can be easier said than done. So, how can parents encourage their family to enjoy dinner together on a regular basis without being glued to their screens? We asked 4 experts to share their best tips. Learn how you can make dinner more engaging than anything on a device, how to use your actions to guide children’s behavior, how to create a device free dinner strategy with your kids, and more.
- Don’t go cold-turkey for your first device free dinner Weena Cullins, Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist
- Make dinner more engaging than being on a device Heidi Marzke, Educational Consultant, @HeidiWF
- Be intentional about having dinner together Evan Money, Ph.D., Evan Money inc.
- Create a device free dinner plan with your kids Colleen Carroll, Innovative Reading, @DrCarrollReads
Parents truly set the tone for dinnertime behavior. For families who have been device-dependent, start with 1-2 specific device-free days instead of going cold-turkey all week. Maintain a unified stance on checking devices at the dining room door and be prepared with a few topics to discuss in advance to keep dinnertime conversation flowing.
The best way to enjoy dinner without devices is to make dinner more engaging than anything available on kids’ devices. We like to start with “the day’s high and low” and have each family member share. Doing so inevitably leads to interesting conversations, discussions and debates and before you know it, devices are the last things on anyone’s minds.”
Device-free dinners come down to one thing, being intentional. First off, you have to be intentional about having dinner together, sadly most families rarely do that. For example, we chose not to enroll our daughter in an invitation only advanced ballet class, because it wouldn’t allow us to have dinner together.
Secondly intentionality starts with the parents, in the evenings I purposely leave my cell phone in my home office on vibrate. It’s out of sight, out of mind and out of earshot so it won’t interrupt the meal. Your actions speak so loud, your family can’t hear a word you’re saying.
Families should pass a device basket where everyone contributes their cell phone, including parents. I like Disney’s Circle, which will shut down the internet whenever you program it do so, keeping dinner time wi-fi free. All family members need to be in agreement, so draw up a device-free dinner plan and be sure the kids take part in its creation. Kids should give reasons why this is important so they have plenty of buy-in. Also, what happens if anyone breaks the rules? There should be a consequence that no one wants, like being the dishwasher for the evening.